The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday August 12th

Town of Chapel Hill and UNC aim to bring the gap for immigrant and refugee residents

UNC and the Town of Chapel Hill are working together in an initiative to address the needs of foreign-born and refugee communities in town. 

The Chapel Hill Building Integrated Communities project kicked off on Tuesday morning at the Robert & Pearl Seymour Center, where dozens of Korean, Chinese and Japanese residents sat down to talk about transit, housing and other town services. 

"A lot of our residents come from different governments, and we’re trying to explain how ours works and how they can be a part of it,” Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said. 

The partnership began in April when the Chapel Hill and Siler City were chosen for the two-year long collaborative initiative. In the past, the University has worked with communities in Sanford, Winston-Salem and Greenville, all which have developed new services and boards as a result of the project. 

The project is funded by the Institute for the Study of the Americas, the Center for Global initiatives at UNC-Chapel Hill and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. The initiative is also led by Hannah Gill, the director of the Latino Migration Project and a UNC adjunct assistant professor.

Hemminger said the town contributes with paid staff and facilities for the community conversations.

The project consists of three phases and is expected to be completed by December 2019. The first part collects feedback from the community’s foreign-born residents. 

In the second phase, the town will design strategies for improvement, and implement the plans on the third phase. 

At the community conversations, residents sit in focus groups with a facilitator, a translator and a notetaker to start a discussion about town services. Gill said in an email the people helping are Town of Chapel Hill staffers, paid interpreters, volunteers and students. 

A Chinese-born resident in her 70s, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she’s happy there’s another road to communicate with town leaders and vice versa. 

“I live with my kids,” she said. “When we talked about public housing, I said that if I could live by myself, that’d be great.” 

BIC Chapel Hill's team consists of the program manager, Jessica White, Gill, town and county staff and a group of community leaders from different faiths, nationalities and ethnicities. More than 25 members meet every month to carry out the project. 

“We do not ask for any identification or registration at the meetings,” Gill said. “Anyone can participate.”

The next community conversations will be in Arabic, Burmese, Russian and English. They'll take place on Saturday, Jan. 20 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Chapel Hill Public Library. 

The following meeting will be in Spanish and English and will take place on Thursday, Feb. 15 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the St. Thomas More Catholic Church.

Childcare will be provided.

city@dailytarheel.com

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